Last night, after several weeks of study and discussion, The Rockingham Board of Supervisors decided to pause their decision on the Special Use Permit application for the Utility-Scale Solar project near Endless Caverns and to form a committee to propose updates to the county’s solar energy policies and ordinance before approving or denying the permit.
A solar energy ordinance is part of the county zoning code that governs the scale, location, and conditions to be met to be eligible to apply for a Special-Use Permit for any solar energy project in the county. In 2016, Rockingham County conducted a similar update process to create what became the current solar energy ordinance, but with drastic changes to the scale and technology employed in utility-scale solar projects over the last few years, additional changes are needed to ensure county resources are protected and projects are sited in best-fit locations. Board members agreed that they hope the committee can expedite its work, as they would like to begin deciding on projects by early next year.
Board Chairman Bill Kyger requested that Supervisor Brent Trumbo, who will be replaced on the Board of Supervisors following the November election, serve as the “citizen chair” of the committee. Over the last few weeks, Supervisor Trumbo has built on his expertise from his career in the electrical contracting field by conducting in-depth research into the experiences and strategies of other localities that have approved large utility-scale solar projects on agricultural land. Alliance staff members are looking forward to continuing to work with Supervisor Trumbo and applaud Rockingham County for this thoughtful approach.
The currently tabled project is on 355 acres between Endless Caverns Road and Craney Island Road. While the project was also tabled at the Board’s September 9th meeting, previous iterations of the same proposal were rejected by the Board in 2018 and withdrawn by the applicant in early 2020.